Blog Archive: Study Tips
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” - BB King
If you are stuck in a career rut, want to accelerate your chances of getting that promotion or just want to learn something new; you don’t necessarily need to quit working to focus on studying.
The increase in part-time, flexible and online courses that fit in around work and lifestyle commitments means that many people are choosing to become a student while the rest of their life continues on as normal.
If you are still not sure that studying while working is the best option for you, here are our top five reasons why combining study and work is well worth your time and investment.
1) It is the most flexible way of learning.
Part-time and online study options including recorded lectures, downloadable notes and presentations as well as opportunities to live chat with your tutor, mean that you can study at a time that is conveient for you. While you might be very busy during peak periods, at least you can fit the study into a time that best suits you, your work and lifestyle commitments.
2) You don’t need to lose your income.
The thought of a huge debt while you stop work to study would be enough to put anyone off. But combine study with your work and there is no need to lose your income, perfect for anyone with responsibility such as a young family to support or a mortgage to pay. It's also comforting to know, that FEE-HELP is available for eligible domestic students. To keep your stress levels as low as possible, you could even discuss with your manager about allocating a few hours of work each week for study time to help if your qualification will benefit your performance in your current role.
3) You will feel inspired and reinvigorated by learning new things.
Not only will your study benefit from being influenced by real-life situations and case studies from your work life, but your work will also benefit from your study. Your feelings of creativity may increase as you soak up new ideas and methods that you can put into practice straight away in the office.
4) Professional credit can reduce the time it takes to complete your qualification.
At the University of Newcastle, you may be able to reduce your study time and thus cost, by up to a third thanks to professional credit. Complete a Recognition of Prior Learning application form to see how you can get through your qualification in the speediest way possible. UON offers credit for students undertaking the MBA, Marketing, Human Resources Management, Professional Economics, Applied Finance, International Business and Co-operatives Management qualifications. Talk to your manager too – they may see the benefit in investing in your education and may even agree to fund the remaining cost.
5) Your boss and your future bosses will love you for it!
Studying when you have other commitments such as a job and a family really shows how well you can handle stress, time management and prioritisation. Yes, there might be days before assignments are due or an exam when you feel like it was a bad idea, but if you can get through the hard times knowing that the end is in sight, you might not only have a new postgraduate qualification to feel proud of but an increase in salary and a promotion to look forward to!
Studying while working is not always possible for everyone at every time in your life. If you can juggle work and study commitments and ask for support from your family however, it is an investment in yourself and your future as well as one of the fastest and most efficient ways to achieve your educational goals.
Contact us today to discuss your options for flexible study while you work and whether or not you qualify to receive professional credit for prior learning. Call us on 1800 88 21 21 or email email@example.com.
“Out of clutter find simplicity” - Albert Einstein
There is nothing like a good spring-clean to bring a sense of calm, simplicity and purpose to a room. According to a survey of over 1000 office workers carried out by Adecco in the US, “three-quarters of workers say a clean office makes them more productive,” so there are genuine reasons to start sorting!
Here are GradSchool’s five top tips on how to pump up your study-mojo by getting your desk or office space de-cluttered in time for spring.
1. Cut down on your digital clutter.
Turn on your laptop or desktop computer; how many icons do you have showing on the screen? Can you even see the serene mountaintop photo behind the mess of files and shortcuts? If you can’t just trash them then create some folders to file them away tidily.
Another challenge to feeling digitally cleansed is sorting out and filing your emails. If you have 2,374 unread emails sitting in your inbox, it is no wonder you might feel anxious when you open that laptop. Set aside some time, maybe an entire day, to focus on deleting, archiving and filing old emails until you can take pleasure in that lovely empty inbox.
2. Get rid of the junk you don’t need.
If you have not yet read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, now is the time. While not everyone agrees with her methods of thanking items before discarding them or treating your socks with respect, most can agree that Marie makes sense when it comes to de-cluttering your junk. As she describes,
“The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want.
Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that ﬁts perfectly in the space you currently own.”
Like Marie advises, keep only the items that either bring you great joy or that you actually need to work productively, i.e. a desk, a laptop, some stationery, and trash the rest. Once your workspace is tidy, give it a good clean to get it super fresh and ready.
3. Treat yourself to some new stationery.
We all have those piles of old magazines, bills and notes we intend to look at sometime in the future. Once you have de-cluttered and discarded what you don’t need, organise what is left with the help of some new stationery - neat trays, files, folders and labels and become the master of your space rather than a slave to its mess!
4. Organise your mind with a to-do list.
As part of your stationery purchase, include a little notepad that can sit next to your computer as a permanent ‘to-do’ list. Every morning when you sit at your desk, perform a brain-dump and list every task you want to complete by the end of the day. Feel like an absolute boss as you tick off each item as you go. #winning
5. Keep an inspirational item nearby.
De-cluttering and tidying is proven to be therapeutic and will no doubt help you work in a more productive way. But before you throw everything in the bin, keep back something precious, be it a photo, a lucky charm or a piece of art that you can see from your desk to give you some inspiration to get through that to-do list and reach your study goals.GradSchool offers a flexible approach to postgraduate study so that you can fit your chosen course into your life and around your work and family commitments. Study online, face-to-face, full-time, part-time or a mix of all of the above and achieve your study goals how and when you want. Call our helpful team today on 1800 882 121 with any questions or discover our range of postgraduate courses here.
Life has never been more distracting than it is in 2016. Where once we only had to contend with the phone ringing or someone knocking at the door, we now have the world at our fingertips thanks to fast internet access, a never ending influx of email and our 24/7 availability via social media apps on our Smartphone.
It is hard to concentrate on work or study projects when friends are messaging you about tonight’s dinner plans or you just have to compare flight prices for your next holiday right this minute! It might start off only taking five minutes of your time, but five leads to ten and the next thing you know the whole morning has disappeared into a vortex of social media and Googling.
To help you steer clear of distractions and get back on track, we have compiled GradSchool’s top five tips for finding your focus, keeping stress to a minimum and getting your assignment or work project written and delivered on time, every time.
1. Get comfortable in your surroundings and have what you need close by
It might sound simple but make sure your chair and desk is comfortable, that you have enough light to work by, a drink of water and maybe a healthy snack or two close at hand. Have your headphones at the ready if you like to work to music and shut out any other controllable noise where possible. Have all the textbooks and study aids you need and don’t forget to charge up the laptop and have access to a Wi-Fi code if you are working remotely.
2. Write a to-do list
Before you start on your latest assignment or work task, write a comprehensive ‘to-do’ list of all the projects you must complete. Check your diary and make sure you know when each item is due and prioritize your workload accordingly. Don’t waste time on an assignment you could leave until a later date when something else is due in tomorrow.
3. Turn your Smartphone to silent or even better - turn it off
Set a voicemail message to tell callers you are currently unavailable but will be checking messages at a certain time and will get back to them later. The same can be done for emails if you have an ‘out of office’ option or tell yourself you will only check the inbox every hour or two. Turn off any annoying notifications in your computer settings so you don’t get pings and beeps every time a new email lands in your inbox and ruins your concentration.
4. Set your stopwatch for a Power Hour!
Successful entrepreneurs and business coaches including UON graduate and former GradSchool interviewee Heidi Alexandra Pollard swear by setting a timed 'Power Hour'. The idea is that you turn off all digital devices and focus on your assignment or project while your stopwatch or clock ticks away for a full 60 minutes. It is amazing what can be achieved in just an hour when all distractions are eliminated and your focus is switched firmly on.. The idea is that you turn off all digital devices and focus on your assignment or project while your stopwatch or clock ticks away for a full 60 minutes. It is amazing what can be achieved in just an hour when all distractions are eliminated and your focus is switched firmly on.
5. Schedule in breaks and fun stuff
While your main focus is to complete an assignment, don’t ignore the bigger picture of your mental health and wellbeing. If you have a particularly tight deadline and you are feeling stressed, book in something fun such as dinner with friends for immediately afterwards.
While you are working, schedule time (outside of the Power Hour!) for breaks and healthy habits such as regular stretching at your desk. Put aside some time for a pre or post-work gym class, yoga session or bike ride so you have something to look forward to at the start or the end of each day.
Modern life is full of distractions but keep these top five tips in mind to help increase your productivity and stay focused on the task at hand!
GradSchool referenced a mixture of excellent advice from Forbes and Lifehack to create our own tips for this article. Follow both Forbes and Lifehack on Twitter for links to expert business and life-related articles and tips: @forbes and @lifehackorg
Writing and research at the postgraduate level involves some fresh challenges and some old ones.
The team at GradSchool regularly field questions from new postgrads about how to meet these challenges, so we decided to write our answers down and publish them on the GradLife Blog.
1. Ask for Help
Firstly, if you were an undergrad who tended to go it alone, it’s time for a change. Start asking for help.
This can be a real challenge, but uni is designed that way – your lecturer and your fellow students are there to participate in a process of learning and knowledge exchange. This is a chance to tap into that collective intelligence, and take advantage of the research and writing skills of the group.
Peer or collaborative learning has received growing attention and support by researchers who argue that “there is educational benefit in students taking responsibility for shared, self-directed learning from each other, working in groups independent of the teacher”.
Think of it this way: part of your experience can be to help each other, and while you’re learning, become a better communicator who is better networked and thereby better able to succeed as a professional. Asking for help is an important first step in this journey.
2. Find Study Buddies
Why not ask classmates to team up with you? Whether online or in person, a regular meeting can help build rapport. Networking with like-minded students, makes it easier to share ideas and promote good learning habits. These colleagues can become acquaintances and eventually friends over time; a great outcome you can promote to your advantage.
3. Share Your Writing Early
Release early, release often is the catch cry of software engineers. Why? To shorten the feedback loop between developers and testers of software, and ensure the work is always headed in the right direction.
Of course, writing software is not the same as writing essays or reports, but the principle remains: you can’t get feedback on your work until you share it, and it’s better to know sooner, rather than later, if you’re on the right path.
If you are in a pattern of writing and keeping it hidden until your masterpiece finally emerges on the due date, try changing it up. Write a draft, get it to your study buddies a few weeks ahead of time and workshop it as a group.
Why not make a deal, and help with theirs too? This will improve your writing and get you motivated, but it will also allow you to share ideas and meet those deadlines – and may help with any “imposter syndrome” symptoms you’ve been developing.
4. Get Old School
The digital age has brought with it some bad study habits. Multi-tasking and research short-cuts are now commonplace and are impacting the way people conduct research.
A large-scale two-year study of the student research process, the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project, discovered that students had difficulty conducting more accurate research using techniques such as narrowing search terms in library databases because they were accustomed to the simpler functioning of Google.
We suggest that when you research, don’t just 'Google it': exercise those research muscles. Attend to the library resources, and find the most relevant research tools and use them to conduct careful investigation – particularly during the discovery phase for a major writing task.
This will ensure you find the best quality materials, and the most relevant. If you have trouble, again, ask for help. Librarians really love this stuff, and they are available online if you can’t get there in person.
5. Forget Finding Your Own “Voice”, and Make Your Contribution
As a postgraduate student, you might feel worried that you need to “find your own voice”, and start being more original in your style.
But writing on your terms, and exploring ideas by taking ownership of them, is very difficult to achieve within formal academic writing. As a beginner, you must rely on the authority of established authors to bring substance to your arguments; it takes time for academic writers to establish themselves and define a style in any context, and that’s not your job here.
However, it is important to avoid hiding behind your sources, and where you use lengthy quotes, ensure they’re necessary, that you synthesise their meaning and explain their relevance to your argument.
This means, of course, that you must have an argument in the first instance. This is usually an argument in support of a position taken by an established scholar, with a context you provide.
Murray and Moore (2006) make the point well when they argue in their excellent book The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach that “developing your own voice may not be an achievable goal in academic writing. For new writers particularly, there are other goals… perhaps we could more usefully focus on ‘voice’ in the sense of ‘contribution’?” (p.68)
Contributions, according to Murray and Moore, are often very modest things. So focus on the nuts and bolts, and allow yourself to stand on the shoulders of giants.
So, those are our tips for tackling postgrad writing and research. If you are interested in making your contribution by taking on a postgraduate program at the University of Newcastle click here to learn more – discover what you will study and the career opportunities it can provide.
Collaborating online with your fellow students on assignments and study can be both challenging and exciting. While there are drawbacks, there are also great advantages to being able to work remotely with colleagues, and a growing number of highly effective tools are now available to assist in the process.
As we explained in our previous post, “Online Study Tips”, there are many wonderful tools for online collaboration, available free or in limited format options such as free trial periods that students use.
This will have a dual benefit: firstly, you will engage unforeseen modes of collaboration to enhance your project definition, experience and outcomes; and secondly, you will engage in modes of learning that will form essential elements of future work skillsets and knowledge base.
We have taken the time to highlight three unusual and innovative collaborative tools you may not have considered using before, so if you’re interested, read on!
Mind 42 is a free online mind-mapping tool that allows multiple users to collaborate on mind map building in real time. The maps can then be published and made viewable online for later reference.
Mind 42 is a play on words and numbers, and translate to mean “mind for two”. This is also a reference to the author Douglas Adams’ playful description of the answer to the question of the meaning of life. Of course, meaningfully collaborating with another mind is one of the most important things we do in life, so it’s not all playful.
With Mind 42 you will be able to design sharable descriptions of group projects, map knowledge sets associated with exam preparation or explore challenging ideas you are engaging as part of your studies.
Bounce is a free online resource that grabs a snapshot of any web page for you to comment on and share. Just type the URL of the web page you wish to critique and Bounce returns an image of the page – from there you simply click and add comments.
This can be a very useful tool when interacting with fellow students over online resources; this is partly because they often include a visual element such as a photograph that you wish to discuss. However, text-based web pages of a wide variety of kinds can be commented and shared quickly and easily with colleagues, and to great effect.
Search Team is a free service that permits a group to enhance online research by collaborating in real time on the process.
By using Search Team or a similar tool students will be able to avoid the division of effort that may accompany the discovery procedure during online collaboration over assignments in particular.
Your team can collaborate to enhance the speed and effectiveness of gathering resources, and filtering them for relevance based on a mutually agreed upon set of criteria. This process has the further benefit of ensuring group consensus during the very important early stages of assignment preparation.
If you are a current student or graduate and would like to suggest tools and strategies that enhance online collaboration, we would love to hear them. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we will share your ideas on the blog.
The team at GradSchool often have conversations with people taking on a postgraduate degree online, and get to hear great solutions to the challenge of completing studies outside the traditional classroom environment.
Here are three “nuts and bolts” strategies for online study success that we have based on suggestions current and former students commonly make – useful things to know before you get started, and handy tips that can assist current students too.
1. “Crowd source” information
Just as in the traditional learning environment, online study relies on a combination of instruction and guidance from expert lecturers and knowledge sharing between a community of students who support and motivate one another through the challenges faced in a program of study. This is known as “collegiality”.
A strength of student groups engaged in online study is the fact that they frequently “crowd source” information they require whilst completing assignments, regular review of course material or preparing for examinations. This means online study can be a very “collegial” experience.
The tip here is don’t be afraid to ask questions in Blackboard’s sophisticated online learning environments such as bulletin boards, where a query can be published and fellow students or teaching staff can respond over time. This is a crucial part of online study, and such questions often generate a number of responses, and even an ongoing conversation that serves as a record of the knowledge exchange for later reference.
2. Use project management tools
Project management tools are very important to teams attempting to collaborate on major projects that require many smaller tasks to be executed utilising a range of resources over time. These tools are usually cloud based, and permit groups to assign tasks, list the necessary resources for the tasks and for participants to report on progress over time.
These can be incredibly useful when co-ordinating group work with a diverse online team who may be anywhere in the world, and operating in different time zones. Besides the University provided Blackboard, there are many examples of these tools, and Wikipedia has an extensive comparison available here. Most are commercial software, but some popular examples offer free trials or free versions that may be suitable for use on a collaborative project for university.
The tip here is use a strategic approach to project management when collaborating with teams online on assignments and other tasks and processes. Learning to use a range of project management tools is a great idea, and if you’d like to try some cloud-based software, examples include: Basecamp; Asana; Teamwork; Redbooth; 5pm; and Glasscubes.
3. Have online group meetings
It may seem like an obvious one, but our last tip is to have online group meetings where possible. This might take some organising if the team is international, but the benefits are great, and these days the technology is available to make it happen.
You will, along the way, also learn what is a vital new skill for professionals: direct interpersonal communication in online environments. Distributed workforces are increasingly commonplace, and many professionals can expect to participate in teams drawn from a range of physical locations in real time.
The effective use of text, voice and video based communications tools for group meetings takes some practice and planning, and this is a genuine opportunity to enhance your skills in this area. You can use Blackboard’s built in communication tools, or other freely available technologies such as Skype or Google Hangouts to begin this journey.
If you are considering online postgraduate studies, feel free to get in touch with us with any questions you may have about the online learning experience at the University of Newcastle. If you are a current student or graduate and have some advice to offer, we would love to hear it. Send us an email at email@example.com.
"Passion is your greatest love. Passion is the thing that will help you create the highest expression of your talent." - Larry Smith
Here are some excellent Ted Talks for postgraduate students to listen to on staying motivated, finding your passion and managing stress. Enjoy!
Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career
In this hilarious talk, Larry Smith explores the ridiculous excuses we create that keep us from following our dreams.
How to Find Work You Love
In this talk, Scott Dinsmore tells us what he learned when he quit his job to find joyful and meaningful work.
Why We Do What We Do
Tony Robbins believes that emotion is the force of life. In this talk he explores these "invisible forces" that motivate us to do what we do.
What Adults Can Learn From Kids
Adora Svitak explains why we need to listen and learn from the bold ideas, wild creativity and optimism kids share with us.
On Being Wrong
Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for being wrong and why it's ok to embrace the mystery and say "I don't know."
How to Make Stress Your Friend
In this talk, Kelly McGoingal explains how to see the positive side of stress and just how much impact your attitude can have on your health.
All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes
When is the last time you absolutely nothing... for 10 whole minutes? In this Ted Talk, Andy Puddicombe discusses the power of doing nothing.
Too busy with work, study, friends and family to squeeze in a visit to the gym? We've all been there. We suggest taking advantage of that smartphone by utilising these FREE apps that will assist you with organising, collaborating and creating on the go.
Here are five apps we think are must haves, and a little bit about why:
One of the hardest things about working on the go is getting access to your files. With dropbox, you can store your work in the cloud in real time and sync files across all your devices. The best part? You can access your files from an app on your mobile device any time without needing to take up memory. You will also avoid that nightmare situation of losing your work because it will be secured saved in the cloud. It’s free – but if you want more than two gig of space you have to refer friends or pay a monthly fee.
Evernote is a great mobile note taking and writing tool that is also free for the basic version and will also sync across devices. But it is designed specifically for the author on the go, with a built in audio recorder that permits you to get your thoughts down while driving or record lectures and chats and organise these alongside your notes.
Organising referential material for your assignments and exam preparation is very challenging. Mendely is a free reference manager, that also plugs you into an academic social network and syncs files across your devices. You can use this one on your laptop or desktop, and grab the app to give you access to your research on the go, making notes in PDF readings and eventually permitting you to cut out that painful last step by formatting your reference list on your behalf. You can use it to create groups and collaborate, and to access resources compiled by other scholars from around the world.
Yes, you can google terms but with this app you can look up terms quickly and efficiently in real time and know you can rely on the answer. The Oxford English Dictionary of terms app is free and easy to use, and a sound reference point for your note taking on the go or while sitting in a lecture in person or through a webcast when your lecturer uses that word you can never recall the meaning of. This app is just what the doctor ordered and you can get it straight from the horse's mouth.
Pocket is a great app that allows you to store articles, video content and any other media you stumble across for later viewing. You don’t need to be online to access it, the content will sync across your devices. Since you can seamlessly move between devices, you won't miss those stolen moments of research and can take advantage of those random quiet times you get to read and study.
Of course, these are only five of an ocean of possibilities, so have a look around for what suits you. But if you’re time poor, these will operate well together to make sure your research is well organised and easy to access, and that your work is securely stored available to you anywhere, any time. Can you believe this stuff is free?
Take a moment and think back to a time when you learned something. Really learned something. A time you took a concept or an idea and truly grasped it, understood it, acquired it, and it became a part of you.
Now think back to what sparked that learning? Was it a class you took? A teacher who inspired you? A book you read? An interesting conversation with friends?
When asked this question, school (the place we are supposed to learn the most), is usually not the answer. Why is this?
In school we learn things, but often fail to understand the meaning behind them or gain the ability to think innovatively about a concept. For example, we can look at the practice of making students memorise their times tables. Jo Boaler of Stanford University recently stated that rote memorisation like this is not only unhelpful to students, but potentially damaging. Boaler argues that it hinders the student’s ability to gain ‘number sense’ and creative problem-solving skills.
Getting students to actively learn and engage with a subject is easier said than done. When you have a set curriculum and a large number of students who all have diverse interests and learn in different ways, it can be frustrating for both teacher and student. So how can educators encourage learning?
In his Ted Talk “3 rules to spark learning”, Ramsey Musallam encourages teachers to engage their students through curiosity. He states that by confusing and perplexing our students, we are challenging them to explore ideas and learn actively. “Student questions are the seeds of real learning, not some scripted curriculum giving tid-bits of random information”, states Ramsey. In order to spark learning, practice these three rules:
- Rule # 1: Curiosity comes first.
- Rule #2: Embrace the mess.
- Rule #3: Practice reflection.
Now think back to that thing you learned… Were you first curious about the topic? Did your curiosity encourage you to explore the topic in more depth? Was the learning process messy? Did it take a lot of trial and error? And when it finally all clicked, did you take time to reflect on what you have learned and put it into practice?
Even though Ramsey’s talk is catered towards educators, it is just as relevant to students. If we truly want to grow in our chosen fields, we need to first understand how and why we learn. This is what is so exciting about higher education. GradSchool is where curious students meet passionate professors, who together, explore topics that interest them. It’s where learning, progress, and innovation happen.
So students: ignite your curiosity, ask questions, explore, and grasp with both hands the opportunity to learn deeply!
Watch the video:
Postgraduate study can be a lot of fun with music for company, but does it help or hinder you while your studying?
We did a bit of looking into how music affects your study and discovered there are some mixed feelings on the subject.
Music can calm you down, keep you company and motivate you to study when you are tired and your attention is wandering – but the positive effect it has on your intellectual and cognitive performance has been exaggerated in pop culture.
In 1993, the scientific journal Nature published an article based on research that listening to classical music improved performance on certain spatial tasks. This inspired the news media to claim that classical music enhances intelligence, and to popularise this notion as the so-called “Mozart Effect”.
However, this finding has not been effectively replicated, as research out of Harvard and the University of Vienna shows. Indeed, Emory University psychologist Scott E. Lilienfeld ranked the "Mozart effect" number six in his book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology.
On the other hand, in a fast moving world and a busy life you often need something to help you shift gears and settle into a study zone. Studies have shown that music is a great tool to help you get in the zone to complete repetitive tasks. It can also cause a dramatic reduction in the feelings of stress and up-tempo tunes can even help you perform better on IQ tests. All you have to do is put on some headphones and you can shut out a noisy café, fellow commuters, and perhaps even the family!
Here are five tips on how to make the most of this strategy:
- Try instrumental music, and preferably something that sets an atmosphere you enjoy whilst studying, such as the soundtrack to a film you love.
- Even though the “Mozart Effect” is a myth, classical music can be a great way to find focus and calm in a crowded life, but experiment with different pieces and recordings to find what suits. This might change from task to task, especially since classical music has many moods.
- Create playlists that suit the mood of your work, and tweak them based on how well they work for you.
- Use the duration of playlists to help guide you. When the playlist ends, take a break. By that time, you will have earned it.
- You might also try downloading an App that allows you to listen to looped sounds, like rain, the beach, and even being on a plane. These can really get you in the zone.
GradSchool has created the “Postgrad Study Playlist” on Spotify, you can check it out here. If you have any favourite study tracks, please send them our way in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add them to the list.